The LGBTQ movement has come a long way. This month rainbow pride flags are hanging in windows, flying on town street posts, and appearing in social media feeds of individuals and businesses. But as the nation continues to grapple with discrimination of all kinds, with “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations held throughout the country, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done—and housing equality is no exception.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community are much less likely to be homeowners than straight Americans, according to the 2020 LGBT Real Estate Report 2020–21. It was produced by the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals and Freddie Mac. Just under half of LGBTQ adults, 49%, were homeowners, compared with nearly two-thirds, 65%, of heterosexuals. (It’s estimated that about 4.5% of the U.S. population is a member of the LGBTQ community.)
Some of the reasons for lower homeownership rates is thought to be the result of discrimination against gay Americans. Or even the fear of being discriminated against.
“We’ve come far, but we have more to go,” says NAGLREP’s founder and president, Jeff Berger. More than 900 NAGLREP members, a combination of real estate professionals, were surveyed for the report. “And we’re going to get to that finish line of full equality.”
The lower homeownership rate isn’t due to a lack of desire. Nearly three-quarters of gay renters hope to eventually own a home, according to the report.
However, nearly half of LGBTQ buyers worry they’ll be discriminated against in the home-purchasing process. That percentage is highest for gender-expansive (transgender) buyers, at 69%, and lesbians, at 54%. Only about a third, 34%, of gay men were similarly concerned. One of their big concerns is not being accepted by their neighbors.
Those fears aren’t unfounded. Same-sex applicants were 73% more likely to be denied a mortgage than straight couples, according to a 2019 Iowa State University study. They also paid slightly more in fees and interest.
“Discrimination is a valid concern,” says Berger. “And as important as it is to find the right home, [folks] should find the right professionals to treat [them] fairly.”
Harassment, intolerance, and a lack of other gay people may be why LGBTQ Americans are much more likely to escape their hometowns and head for more welcoming communities. Only about a third, 32%, remained in the same general location where they attended high school, compared with 72% of the general population. They moved for better jobs and opportunities, but also to be in more inclusive communities.
“There is discrimination growing up, there may be bullying, people may not feel like their hometown is where they want to live,” says Berger. “There is a feeling of, ‘Hey, I want to start over in a place that understands me and who I am.'”
About three-quarters live in gay-friendly cities, towns, and neighborhoods.
When they’re ready to buy, their top priority is finding a safe community where they don’t have to be scared of being harassed. Other top considerations include living in a neighborhood with a fun vibe, with protections for members of the LGBT community and lots of other gay residents.
“The American dream of homeownership is for all,” says Berger.